My Parents Are Using My Social Security Number — Should I Report Them?

Share this:

Hari Ravichandran

CEO and Founder, Aura

In this article:

    Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.

    See pricing
    Share this:

    Should You Report Your Parents for Identity Theft?

    Kevin Barnaby Jr. fell prey to child identity theft before his 4th birthday — at the hands of his father.[*] With a clean credit score, Kevin was an easy target. All the man needed was his child’s social security number (SSN) to open fraudulent credit card accounts. 

    Over 1.25 million children were victims of identity theft in 2021 — with over 70% claiming they personally knew the perpetrator.[*] Just like Kevin.

    This article will explore how and why parents steal their children's identities and who is most vulnerable. What are the warning signs to watch out for? How do you report child identity theft by a parent? And, finally, how can you protect children from putting their identities at risk?

    What we'll cover:

    1. What is child identity theft?
    2. How does it happen?
    3. Why would parents steal their children’s identities?
    4. Is it a crime?
    5. Who is most at risk?
    6. How can you tell if a parent is using a child’s identity?
    7. Do you know a child identity theft victim?
    8. How to protect children from identity theft

    What Is Child Identity Theft?

    Child identity theft refers to the fraudulent use of a minor's personally identifiable information (PII). Scammers may be after financial gains, such as opening bank accounts, obtaining credit, applying for loans, or making purchases. 

    Criminals will target sensitive information, such as a child’s SSN, which parents receive soon after their child is born. Other personal information at risk includes the following:

    • Date of birth
    • Birth certificate
    • Home address
    • Social media account credentials

    As the Federal Trade Commission received 23,000 reports of identity theft and 42,000 reports of fraud for people under the age of 19, it’s clear this problem is growing.[*]

    💡 Related: My Mom Stole My Identity. Should I Report Her? →

    How Does Child Identity Theft By a Parent Happen?

    You might think child identity fraud is the result of a data breach, hackers on the Dark Web, or strangers rifling through your mailbox. However, sometimes, the thief is the person a child should be able to trust more than anyone in the world. 

    Parents already have access to all the personal information and documents needed for identity fraud. When a thief has a child’s PII, they can carry out various types of child identity theft, such as:

    • Opening a credit card in a child’s name
    • Using a child’s SSN to claim government benefits
    • Filing fraudulent income tax returns under a child’s name
    • Applying for a loan using a child’s clean credit history
    • Getting a driving license in a child’s name

    But Why Would a Parent Steal Their Child’s Identity?

    Why would parents knowingly inflict financial harm and emotional stress on their child? Many circumstances could lead to child identity theft by a parent:

    • Parents are struggling to pay their bills, including the electricity and heating for the family home. 
    • They are under pressure with existing credit card debt and contact from debt collectors. 
    • Parents with an addiction or substance abuse issue. 
    • Parents who are in trouble with the law.

    Regardless of who the perpetrator is, the motivation and means are often the same — the thief is someone who needs money and sees an easy target. 

    Thieves can take advantage of a child's clean record to apply for credit cards and loans and go undetected for years. Many cases of child identity theft by a parent go undiscovered until the victim is much older, usually when they apply for credit as an adult. 

    💡 Related: Family Identity Theft Protection: The Parental Guide for 2022 →

    Is It a Crime To Use Your Child’s Identity?

    Some perpetrators may face financial trouble, like the circumstances mentioned above. They may think it’s okay to use their child’s identity temporarily. But if you don’t pay it back, you will damage your child’s credit score and set them up for financial hardship when they reach adulthood. 

    The law remains the same, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you know the child or if you’re the parent — it’s still identity theft. And child identity theft by parents is still a crime. 

    Aside from the financial repercussions, child identity theft by parents can destroy the relationship and split families. When the truth finally comes out, some siblings may side with the parents. 

    Despite the betrayal, many victims of child identity theft don't take legal action against their parents. The victim may feel conflicted about whether to report the fraud to the police so as to not jeopardize their parents. Even so, this dilemma doesn't make the theft any less damaging — it is a crime with severe consequences.

    💡 Related: How To Repair Your Credit After Identity Theft →

    Who Is Most at Risk?

    Any child could be a victim, anywhere. But some kids are more at risk than others, especially if they are raised in an unstable environment. For example, the following groups are more likely to become victims of identity theft:

    • Children in single-parent families or moving between the homes of parents who are divorced or separated. 
    • Children whose families are under financial pressure, perhaps due to unemployed parents.
    • Children whose parents have addiction problems. 
    • Children in the foster care system.
    Stats about child ID theft victims and perpetrators
    Source: Child Identity Fraud Study 2021, Javelin Strategy & Research

    Foster youth are at the mercy of innumerable adults who access their documents and PII. Whereas many children have at least one parent or guardian to look out for their well-being, foster children don’t have that security. 

    If you don’t know how to check if your identity has been stolen and nobody is looking out for you, it's easy to become a victim.

    How Can You Tell If a Parent Is Using a Child’s Identity?

    There may be some incidences of collusion between parents, where they work together to run child identity theft scams. However, in many cases, the fraudster operates alone, unbeknownst to the rest of the family. 

    If your child (or a child you know) receives any of the following, consider them as potential signs of child identity theft:

    • Delinquent tax notices from the IRS.
    • Bills or pre-approved credit card offers.
    • Calls from collection agencies about unpaid debts.
    • Student loan rejection letters.
    • Letters from the DMV that deny the child a driver’s license.
    • Notices from a bank or credit card company rejecting a new account application.
    • Letters about denied government benefits because another person is already using their SSN.

    If you spot some of these red flags, the next thing you should do is request a credit report for your child. Children don't normally have credit reports unless a parent or guardian puts a freeze on the credit.

    If you find there is already an open credit report in your child's name, they're almost certainly a victim of child identity theft.

    Do You Know a Child Identity Theft Victim? You Can Help.

    It can be quite a shock to learn of a victim — especially if you suspect a parent. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you limit the damage and take back control to stop the thief in their tracks.

    1. Decide if you want to confront the child’s parent

    You might already have a suspect after spotting some of the above warning signs, but it’s important to approach this situation delicately. The thief may not openly admit their guilt or accept the severity of their crime. 

    Consider doing the following:

    Should you choose to confront the suspect, before you have the conversation, get clarity on your boundaries, for example:

    • What you aim to achieve (e.g., the thief taking full responsibility and cooperating to clear the child’s name and record with credit companies) 
    • What’s an acceptable compromise (e.g., no police involvement)?
    • What’s unacceptable (e.g., the family sharing the debt repayments)?

    If you have any doubts about your suspect, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. Emotions run high in cases of familial fraud, and the fallout can impact many others aside from the thief and the victim. 

    Ultimately, the more pressing matter is to exonerate the victim by proving there has been a case of child identity theft by a parent.

    2. Place fraud alerts or a credit freeze

    If you’ve already discovered an open credit report in the child’s name or other signs of identity theft, you need to stop the problem from getting worse.

    Consider doing the following:

    • Notify all three credit bureaus about the fraud. 
    • Place a fraud alert on the child’s credit file. This step will stop anyone from opening new credit for 90 days without first verifying their identity. 
    • Alternatively, if you want a longer-term solution, it's best to put a credit freeze on the reports to stop further fraud. The child can unfreeze their credit when they're old enough to enter contracts.

    3. Gather your evidence

    The authorities can make a note on the files about the alleged identity theft — but you will need to supply evidence. You must collect anything that will help you prove a child has been targeted by an identity thief. 

    Consider doing the following:

    • Gather all suspicious mail and online communications sent to the child, such as bills from credit card companies, bank loan applications, DMV correspondence, and IRS tax notices. 
    • Make additional supporting notes to explain the suspicious activities and fraudulent documents. 
    • Store all evidence, notes, and credit reports (plus their PINs) in a secure place, like a locked safe. 

    4. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

    It’s important to report identity theft to the FTC, as they can provide you with an official identity theft report that helps you back up your claims of child identity theft when you contact affected companies. 

    Consider doing the following:

    • Report the theft online at IdentityTheft.gov.
    • Alternatively, speak to an advisor by calling 877-ID-THEFT.
    • Keep the official FTC report safely with your other evidence.

    5. Contact all companies where fraud has occurred

    With your evidence in hand, get in touch with the lenders to notify them of the suspected fraud. 

    Consider doing the following:

    • Contact each organization to explain that there has been a case of child identity theft by a parent.
    • Show your evidence of all fraudulent accounts and transactions to debit card and credit card companies, and request they reverse the charges.
    • Use your FTC report to instruct debt collectors to cease all contact and attempts to collect debts in your child’s name.

    6. Contact government agencies if applicable

    Sometimes, identity thieves won’t just rack up debts on a credit card. In cases of child identity theft by a parent, the perpetrator might use their child’s identity to claim tax refunds or unemployment benefits. 

    Consider doing the following:

    • Prepare your evidence, FTC report, and the child's IDs, including their SSN. You must share this information to ensure authorities stop all fraudulent tax, unemployment, or medical benefits under the child's name. 
    • Immediately reply to any IRS notice that you suspect is related to the illegitimate use of a child’s identity. 
    • Report unemployment fraud to the state workforce agencies in the state(s) where it took place. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to find relevant state fraud hotlines [*].
    • If you suspect Medicare fraud, get in touch with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY 1-877-486-2048

    7. File a police report

    This critical report is often one step too far for many victims. Despite the severe consequences financial fraud may cause, many children don't want to get their parents in trouble.

    However, while reporting child identity theft by a parent is not an easy decision, doing so helps police investigate the fraud and restore the child's identity. If a child's identity was used during a crime or traffic infraction, going to the police may be the only way to clear the victim’s name. 

    Consider doing the following:

    • Gather your FTC Identity Theft Report and IDs to confirm your identity and the child's identity. 
    • Visit the local police station to file a report of child identity theft by a parent.
    • Supply investigating officers with your supporting evidence, including bank statements and communications from debtors, credit card companies, and government agencies.

    To Protect Children From Identity Theft, Do This:

    Minors don’t regularly check their credit reports or bank statements until they are much older. This makes child identity theft that much more attractive to thieves. Like most types of identity theft, it’s best to be proactive. Here are four steps you can take to protect children.

    Freeze their credit

    A security freeze blocks access to children’s credit reports and denies all credit applications. 

    Here’s how:

    • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to request a security freeze. 
    • Show the child’s birth certificate and your ID to prove that you are the child’s parent or legal guardian.
    • Either you or your children can reverse the freeze when they’re old enough to need credit (usually around 16 years old).
    Child ID theft stats
    Based on a press release from the Identity Theft Resource Center on September 21, 2020. Source: SAS

    Teach children about information privacy

    Discuss personal information with your kids to help them understand the importance of staying safe — especially online. 

    Here’s how:

    • Advise your children not to share personal information, like their full name, birthday, home address, and phone number. Also, warn teenagers about keeping their SSN and driver’s license information safe.
    • Tell children to hang up calls on anyone who asks for sensitive information and avoid replying to suspicious text messages from unfamiliar sources.
    • Educate all children about the dangers of fake social media accounts and phishing so they know how to spot online scams.
    💡 Related: The Most Unbelievable Identity Theft Stories of All Time

    Keep your children’s personal information safe

    While child identity theft by a parent is always a possibility, the parents aren't always to blame. Sometimes, the thief is another family member or someone close, like a social worker, foster home employee, or teacher.

    Parents or guardians must keep their children’s PII as secure as possible to protect their kids from identity theft.

    Here’s how:

    • Never disclose your child’s SSN. Leave it blank on all forms for schools and doctor's offices. Only the IRS needs to know SSNs — if anyone else requests your child's SSN, insist on a credible reason before deciding on whether it's essential. 
    • Limit accounts opened in your child’s name. Even if you browse with a reliable antivirus and a VPN, you should restrict how much of your child’s personal information you disclose on online accounts, apps, and services. Wherever possible, use your name instead of your child’s name.
    • Monitor your children’s social media use. Don’t allow your child to open their own social media accounts until a certain age. Even when they have access, monitor their usage carefully. Make sure they have tight privacy restrictions on all accounts and know not to reveal personal information on social media.
    • Store important documents in a locked safe. For example, you could keep your child’s birth certificate, Social Security card, and medical records in a heavy safe, which can’t be physically removed from your property. Parents who divorce or send their child to boarding schools should take care to protect their child’s sensitive documents between homes. 

    Freezes Won’t Stop All Types of Thefts, But It’s a Start

    Aura's family ID theft protection plans
    Aura's Family Plan covers up to five members — adults or children — and is available on a 14-day free trial basis.

    Aura's Family Plan covers up to five members — adults or children — and is available on a 14-day free trial basis.

    Children are vulnerable to identity theft, especially if they live in unstable environments or a home where parents have money struggles. Years of undetected financial abuse can set the child up for a challenging life, as bad credit can deny them bank accounts, a car, a home, or even a job. 

    The best way to keep children's identity safe is to use a digital security solution like Aura’s family protection plan. It offers 24/7/365 credit monitoring, proactive alerts about suspicious activity, and a $1M insurance policy to cover eligible losses resulting from identity fraud.

    For ironclad identity theft protection, try Aura 14-days free. →

    Related Articles

    child identity theft protection
    Identity Theft

    Child Identity Theft: The Parental Guide to Protecting Your Kids

    More than 1 million children were the victims of child identity theft last year. Learn how to protect your kids from scammers in this parental guide.

    Read More
    April 28, 2022
    how to protect your child from identity theft
    Identity Theft

    How To Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

    It's true. Con artists are making a living off your kids. Learn how child identity theft happens and how to protect your kids.

    Read More
    May 16, 2022

    Try Aura—14 Days Free

    Start your free trial today**

    This is some text inside of a div block.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers